By Mary Welch

Multiple Peptide Systems (MPS) will receive more than $10 million from Elan Corp. plc, with $5 million in the form of an equity investment and the rest dedicated to a new joint venture.

MPS will use the $5 million equity purchase to accelerate development of a cancer vaccine and to help fund a diagnostic discovery and development program. Initially, San Diego-based MPS will focus on melanoma as well as another cancers and infectious diseases, such as chlamydia.

The joint venture will research, develop and commercialize oral and non-oral drug delivery technologies.

¿We¿re quite confident about the joint venture, because it involves using our combinatorial libraries that can identify highly active target-specific compounds in a remarkably rapid manner,¿ said Richard Houghten, president and CEO of MPS. ¿Essentially, we¿ll be looking for and finding little hooks, ligands that will go to Elan¿s receptors as part of their delivery systems. It¿s quite a broad technology, so we¿ll be looking at a variety of diseases.¿

Buying Delivery License From Elan

Established as a majority-owned subsidiary of MPS, the joint venture will receive an exclusive license from Elan to certain proprietary oral drug-delivery technology in exchange for a license fee.

Houghten, who bought MPS for $2.25 million in 1997 from Trega Biosciences Inc., of San Diego, would not disclose financial details about the joint venture. ¿I can¿t give out financial information, but it certainly is as large as the equity investment Elan made in us and it could grow substantially,¿ he said. ¿It¿s a very good deal for us.¿

The company, which posted 1998 revenues of $4.5 million (and is profitable) now has about 40 employees, up from the original 18 on board when the company broke off from Trega.